As a leader, creating a happy, healthy and engaged workforce is a sure-fire way to increase motivation, productivity, creativity and collaboration. It also produces a host of additional benefits that will improve the working environment itself for all employees, your employer brand and how your company is perceived by existing and potential customers. When there are strategies available to achieve this that cost nothing at all, why would any business not use them?!
Everyone knows that manners cost nothing, they are something that most of us are taught from an early age. So, why is it that this can often be forgotten in the workplace? Simply remembering to take the time to say thanks, in person preferably – but even by email, goes a long way and will be appreciated by employees.
There’s nothing worse for your employees than doing a really great job and not receiving any appreciation or even acknowledgement. As a leader you should know and utilise the power of simply saying ‘thanks’ in recognition for hard work.
Your employer brand
If employees feel appreciated and valued, then they’ll let colleagues and friends know about it. Your employees are your most powerful brand advocates, but can also be your worst nightmare if they’re not treated with respect. Social media is the most powerful medium in the world and bad reviews can travel VERY quickly and reach an enormous number of people in a matter of minutes.
It’s not just the words that make the gesture effective, the way in which you say it and the reasons for the gratitude are just as important, if not more so.
When you say ‘thanks’ you need to be sincere and express why you’re saying it, this reinforces the praise. It’s also important not to begin saying thanks for every little thing that anyone does in the office, this waters down the gesture for when you are really thankful.
An often overlooked resource of industry knowledge and brand feedback is a brand’s workforce. By taking the time to listen to employee feedback, suggestions and recommendations about the brand, you’ll quickly establish a rapport with your workers and also gather valuable information from the people on the ‘front line’. These discussions can take place as part of a regular company meeting or even on a more casual basis at a social event or after work drinks.
Another strategy is to create and regularly conduct employee satisfaction surveys. Making these anonymous will remove the rapport element, but will encourage more honest feedback from employees.
Don’t forget to act on feedback
Whichever option you decide to take, you should be seen to act on suggestions from employees, otherwise there’s no point in taking the time to ask for feedback and employees will feel that their opinion counts for nothing.
Some great tips for making sure your listening skills are optimised are:
- Face the person you’re speaking to and maintain eye contact
- If required, go to a meeting room to reduce distractions or ambient noise
- Wait until the person has finished speaking, don’t interrupt
- Don’t be afraid to ask someone to elaborate or repeat anything you haven’t fully understood
Showing empathy and consideration for your employees personal responsibilities and circumstances encourages trust, respect and loyalty. Telecommuting and flexible working are two obvious ways that a business can cater for employee commitments, but simply allowing an employee to leave slightly early or arrive later than usual shows that you’re willing to be flexible.
It’s the little things…
Examples include: allowing an employee to bring their dog to the office occasionally (this is also great for morale), allowing a little extra time at lunch for an appointment or agreeing that an employee can work from home if they’re waiting for an important delivery and can’t change the date.
Sometimes management become detached from the day to day tasks and discussions within an office. Leaders should make an effort to get ‘back in the mix’ and become part of the team that they lead. Just by sitting with your subordinates, rather than in your own office, you’ll improve interaction and communication.
Open door? Really?
Many managers talk about having an ‘open door policy’ with their employees – why should there be a door at all? Get rid of the door, prove that you’re treating your employees as equals, rather than putting an invisible wall between you and your team.
Showing that you’re willing and able to help out with daily duties, discuss challenges and offer your opinion, is a quality that will be appreciated by your staff. Spending time with subordinates also enables managers to garner feedback and use this to improve processes and the working environment.
Nurturing a cohesive and collaborative workforce will benefit the business and those that work within it. Creating a social portal, encouraging social events and holding regular forums for employees to provide feedback and suggestions will all increase openness and transparency.
One of the reasons that many people stay in a particular company is because of the people they work with, if your employees are all comfortable with being honest and open with each other then that can only be a good thing for everyone.
Collaboration tools can also be used to encourage employees to work together towards common goals. There are various online apps available, from project management to end-of-day productivity reviews. Which one(s) you choose is down to your company culture, industry, size of organisation and business needs.